The interlocking lives of five Hollywood leading ladies spawn “tragedies, dark doings, jealousies, murder, passion on the grand scale” (Chicago Tribune).
Charlie Caine has been to too many Hollywood funerals. The studio system is long gone, and its stars—some forgotten, some preserved for display on a late-night show—are beginning to pass on, as well. Only a few turn out for the final performance of Babe Austrian, a peroxide-blond beauty whose red-hot talkies changed the way America thought about sex. As he gazes into her coffin, Caine remembers Babe as she was: a dynamite beauty with secrets that could have burned Hollywood to the ground.
In Babe and four other interlocking novellas, Caine recalls the leading ladies of long-lost Hollywood: Belinda, whose daughter was as cruel as she was lovely; Claire, who would do anything to stay in the public eye; April, fragile, beautiful, and mad; and Maude, Hollywood’s most respected matron, whose happy marriage had a lie at its heart. Charlie Caine knows where cinema’s bodies are buried, and he’s anxious to start digging.
The author of the bestselling Crowned Heads and The Other depicts a tarnished Hollywood dream in these interrelated novellas chronicling the overlapping lives of five glamorous movie stars, four of whom are bound together by their love for the bedhopping agent who pushed them to the top. The narrator is Charlie Caine, an actor turned writer who ticks off the blur of unhappy events that befall these women as their careers soar and stall. There's Babe, a blowsy, cut-rate Mae West; Belinda, whose bad seed daughter ruins more than one life; fragile April, who crumbles into madness under the weight of constant tragedy; Maude, the gracious doyenne of American film whose happy marriage may have been an illusion; and the supremely bitchy Claire, a scrabbling, grasping survivor. Famous names and recognizable situations are sprinkled throughout for flavor, but only a few surprising twists hint at Tryon's storytelling prowess. Otherwise, these tales of alcoholism, faithless men and broken women seem unremittingly grim and tedious. Literary Guild main selection.